It’s easy to unconsciously fall into the habit of slouching throughout the day. Unfortunately, bad posture leads to pain and discomfort as well as a number of health problems. That makes learning to maintain proper posture important for your long-term health and happiness.
The human body alternates between two types of posture: dynamic and static. Dynamic posture represents the alignment of your spine as you move. Static posture represents your spine alignment as you sit, sleep, or stand still. Read on to learn more about your spine, the effects of bad posture, and how to improve your posture in both dynamic and static situations.
Our spines consists of three curves located at the back of the neck (cervical spine), midway down our backs (thoracic spine), and in the lower back (lumbar spine). Good posture will maintain the spine’s natural curves while poor posture exaggerates them.
In order to improve your posture, you must learn to sit, stand, move, and lie down in ways that don’t add stress your muscles and ligaments.
Consequences of Bad Posture
The negative effects of bad posture add up over time. Years of constant slouching will weaken your spine and make it more susceptible to injury and back pain. Bad posture also can lead to breathing difficulties, indigestion, and distortion of your spinal curves.
For older adults, poor posture poses even greater harm. It can gradually cause them to adopt a hunched posture, which can strain their shoulder joints to the point of injury. Hyperkyphosis, a severely hunched posture that affects many seniors, can cause weakness, trouble breathing, and a limited ability to engage in everyday activities.
Improving Your Overall Posture
Here are four daily lifestyle changes you can make to help improve your overall posture:
- Stay physically active. All types of exercise contribute to better posture. The most effective kinds of exercise include those that strengthen your core or emphasize awareness of the body, such as yoga and tai chi.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can cause back and joint pain by weakening your abdomen muscles.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Avoid high heels as much as possible. These shoes weaken your balance, which strains your muscles and negatively impacts posture.
- Avoid slouching. Slouching strains your spine, muscles, and joints — often causing back pain.
Tips to Improve Posture While Sitting
Today, many people spend most of their time sitting at work, school, or home, which makes a good sitting posture essential. To perfect your sitting posture, make these key adjustments:
- Ensure each normal curve of your back remains present, but not exaggerated.
- Distribute your body weight equally on both hips.
- Place both of your feet flat on the ground.
- Keep your knees bent at a right angle and even with — or slightly higher than — your hips. Use a foot stool if your legs aren’t long enough to
- maintain this position.
- Keep your back against the chair and consider using a backrest or cushion for more comfort.
- Take intermittent breaks to avoid sitting for too long.
- Place a lumbar roll behind the lower curve of your back for support while driving, and move the seat close enough to the steering wheel for your knees to bend at a right angle.
Tips to Improve Posture While Standing
Follow these best practices to enhance your standing posture:
- Place both of your feet about shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees (don’t lock them).
- Stand up straight with your shoulders slightly pulled back.
- Avoid tilting your head or pelvis forward.
- Allow your arms to hang freely at your side.
Tips to Improve Posture While Sleeping
Great posture while sleeping requires you to:
- Find a mattress that feels comfortable to you. Some people prefer firm mattresses while others prefer softer ones.
- Sleep in a position that keeps the curves of your back in place. If you tend to sleep on your back, for example, place a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower back. If you sleep on your side, keep your knees slightly bent with a pillow in between them to prevent your upper leg from pulling your back out of alignment.
- Sleep on a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck and aligns your head with your chest and lower back.
Key Benefits of Good Posture
Good posture is an essential part of good health. It keeps your bones and joints aligned so you can use your muscles properly. It also helps helps to prevent fatigue by allowing you to use your muscles more efficiently thereby reducing the energy your body must exert.
In addition, good posture increases lung capacity by giving your lungs more space to expand and take in more air. This can help prevent breathing difficulties.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain — caused by leaning the head forward for prolonged amounts of time — can lead to headaches and discomfort when talking, eating, and yawning. By staying mindful of your posture and keeping your head up straight, you can reduce or even prevent TMJ pain.
Good posture also boosts your self-esteem. Research shows that sitting or standing up straight specifically increases people’s confidence in their thoughts and ideas while a slumped posture reduces confidence. Good posture also sends a signal to your brain to feel more powerful and confident overall.
Finally, posture affects how others perceive you. Good posture conveys confidence, which may subconsciously cause others to view you as competent. This can prove especially helpful during job interviews.
So stand tall, sit proudly, and enjoy all the ways in which improving your posture can help make you healthier and happier.